mikelangelo & the black sea gentlemen: risky and lusty

magdalena grubski

Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen

Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen

Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen

The Nightingale of the Adriatic crooned and swooped in the crazy cage of the Crystal Palace last night, christened by the chants of the crowd The Baltic Stallion—they were swiftly corrected by the charming Balkan.

Mikelangelo’s statuesque form, clad in high black pants, danced in the mirrors beneath the chandeliers and disco ball of our devil’s kitchen. His voice soaked in sauerkraut, he truly was the devil sent from heaven. At one point, he enters the room like the Lone Ranger, guitar slung over one shoulder, dances on tabletops, caresses members of the audience, enticing even the most conservative of us into a fleshy sing-along—La, lah, lah, la, la. I left the show with blood thicker than wine racing through my veins, chanting La, lah, lah, la, la through Elizabeth Street Mall.

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen are a quintet—guitar, accordion, double bass, violin and clarinet. Each brings his own unique flavour to the mix—Moldavio recites a poem about his tragic downfall from taxidermy; an accountant who was sold to the circus as a child bellows a mournful song from the bar (“like love, sometimes the sweetest grape is the first to go rotten”); and Guido Libido suspends our disbelief in a fantastic short silent film sequence achieved simply with a screen and strobe light. The Gentlemen howl like dogs, crow like roosters and all openly and willing support their front man’s formidable persona.

Besides dubious Eastern European accents, the threads that bind these men are strong musicianship and a genuine sense of improvisation. Together, they radiate a lust for life. From the moment they enter the stage (and kiss each other on the cheeks three times) to the final encore (“seven hours worth of blood, sweat and tears in our home country but here rolled into three and a half minutes”!) there is a striking sense of humanity, a liveliness that opens up the possibility of even the humble potato becoming sexy.

Nothing is staged, rather it’s lived and shared. To be so genuine is risky but this is precisely what makes them so captivating. They embody a mock Slavic gloom and traverse a landscape in A minor where the sea leaves villages stuck in mud flats, where the weather is always bleak and where “we’re all just skeletons dancing in a sea of flesh”.

Mikelangelo demands attention like a Spanish bullfighter, and he and his Black Sea Gentlemen have written polkas for the 21st century that you won’t see on Eurovision.
All this and sauerkraut…I fear I may have become a groupie.

31 March 2007